A man who was previously considered an upstanding, caring, intelligent and valuable leader in an Australian community is nowadays so easily sidelined and made into a pariah. A woman who is confided in, relied upon, leads and protects can be, at the click of a button on social media, catapulted to a status of notoriety and suspicion. A citizen who for years has been a pillar, upon making an admission regarding politics, will have shade cast upon their very legacy. Important contributors – those who are known for their work ethic, qualifications, and abilities – are so quickly being turned over and replaced with … others.

You see, if someone admits to questioning something controversial (you name the hot-button topic of the moment: burqas/head coverings; vaccination, same-sex marriage/ gender/sexuality; evolution/creationism; refugee policy; support for a leader such as Trump or Obama; global warming…) –  this has so much power at the moment. It has the potential to see someone’s reputation tarnished in a day. Take, for example, a doctor who allows and supports patients in making a conscience-call on vaccinating their children: such a doctor is today hunted down and swiftly discredited by authorities. This doctor, prior to admitting his opinion on vaccination, would be considered a pillar of society: intelligent, reliable and one who brings healing and health to many. But no longer – all that swept away with one admission (regardless of whether that admission contravenes any laws or not). The teacher who students and parents have heralded and trusted: instantly considered a traitor to the school and society if they dare admit they support traditional marriage and gender norms. All the brilliant work that a teacher does in supporting students, building the community and imparting knowledge, casually tossed aside due to the revelation of his opinion – the ramifications of an honest comment.

The knock-on effect is where this bites. Who replaces them? I can tell you this much: it’s not someone who will be willing to make the same mistake. They will know exactly what not to say. And if they do in fact hold a contraband opinion, rule number one will be to withhold their truth and never be honest. One could of course see this as a good thing. It could be the civilizing effects of political correctness. It could be the initiation of a new social order which has washed away the dregs of outmoded and archaic beliefs and ways of being – a social cleansing of sorts. But let’s just examine closely exactly what it is that has triggered, in the past decade or so, this rapid cleansing.

Honesty. It is precisely this: an honest comment. Without those words of personal truth, that individual would have retained their honoured, valued and established position of citizenship and contribution. All those things which take years of hard work, which a society celebrates and needs, and which it strains and toils in order to build into a person: discarded over what? An honest word, and a venture into vulnerability.

I’ll tell you what, I don’t know of a better way to sabotage an entire society. We’re losing out on so much by operating this way. And it’s not necessarily clear which is worse: discarding the quality, or discouraging the honesty. But if I had to choose, I’d say the latter. It’s a dagger to the heart of us all.